Labor unions top PAC fundraising

Organized labor, always a powerful force in Democratic-dominated Massachusetts, continues to hold sway heading into the 2022 election season – and nowhere is that clearer than in fundraising.

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance put out a newsletter Thursday listing the 10 political action committees with the largest bank accounts at the end of 2021, and eight of them were union affiliates.

Number one was the powerful health care workers’ union 1199 SEIU, which has more than $3 million in the bank. Health care workforce issues have become a huge issue in the State House as state health care facilities struggle with a lack of staffing amid the COVID surge. Both the House and the Senate are considering major health care related bills – a Senate bill shoring up mental health coverage and a House bill addressing hospital consolidations.

The union is also gearing up to participate in a ballot campaign opposing an effort by Uber and Lyft to classify their workers as independent contractors, not employees, while guaranteeing them certain benefits. One of 1199 SEIU’s biggest expenditures last year was $50,000 donated to the Coalition to Protect Workers Rights, a ballot committee formed to oppose the Uber/Lyft ballot question.

The only other PAC to crack $1 million was the Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers District Council PAC, which has $1.8 million. That AFL-CIO affiliated union represents 30 local laborers’ union chapters across the region, and the PAC gives money to causes in Maine and New Hampshire, in addition to Massachusetts.

SEIU Local 509 had the third-most money, with $769,750. That is another highly politically active state union, which represents educators and human service workers. Both education and human service workforce issues are at the center of legislative debates this year, over topics ranging from school COVID policies to the need for premium pay and incentives to retain low-paid human service workers.

The union this year gave donations to numerous state lawmakers, local officials, and candidates. It has also given large sums to Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor, clergy, and liberal activists that is campaigning in favor of a constitutional amendment to impose a surtax on income over $1 million.

Other labor unions in the top 10 were the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, the Ironworkers Union Local 7, and the Pipefitters Local 537.

The Massachusetts Police Association and the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association were also on the list, in eighth and ninth place. Issues surrounding policing and police reform have been a major subject of debate in state and local politics over the last few years. The state is in the process of implementing the 2020 police reform law, which created an independent board to set standards for the police, with the power to decertify an officer for misconduct. Discussions are ongoing around whether to change the state’s qualified immunity law. And police unions have been at the forefront of fighting city and state employee vaccine mandates.

Professional associations representing realtors and dentists were the only non-union PACs in the top 10.

The list only includes traditional PACs, which can contribute to candidates and candidates’ committees and must comply with various campaign finance laws and donation limits. Independent expenditure PACS, which can make unlimited contributions but cannot contribute to candidate committees, were not included.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Big settlement: Under a national settlement, Navient agrees to forgive $41 million in student loans it serviced in Massachusetts and a total of $1.85 billion nationally. Attorney General Maura Healey said Navient failed to help financially stressed borrowers pay their debt and instead lured them into forbearance programs. Read more.

OPINION

John Muir was wrong: Kate Lindroos Conlin of Buckland takes issue with Sierra Club founder John Muir’s interpretation of land protection. She says we need to be a part of the natural world, not separate from it. Read more.

Stop kicking the can: Economist Robert Hildreth knocks President Biden’s decision to keep kicking the can of student loans down the road, calls for revamping the entire system. A loan without enforced rules is silly, he says. Read more.

Pass the ACT: Gail Miller of Airport Impact Relief and Veena Dharmaraj of the Sierra Club urged Massachusetts lawmakers to pass the ACT Rule because the state desperately needs more electric trucks. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

After coming under criticism by lawmakers, Gov. Baker releases another $13.5 million for vaccine equity initiatives. (MassLive)

The Senate passes a bill making it easier for homeless people to get a Massachusetts identification card. (WBUR)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

DPH shuts down unlicensed COVID testing clinics in Worcester, Needham, and North Dartmouth. (Telegram & Gazette)

Several schools suspend their contact tracing programs, saying they lack the capacity to trace all close contacts given the current Omicron surge. (Telegram & Gazette)

Hospital executives issue a dire warning that the health care system is on the verge of being overwhelmed and caregivers are exhausted. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 vote, blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate on large employers, but allowed a requirement to remain in effect for health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding. (New York Times

ELECTIONS

Jack Spillane does some early sizing up of the Bristol County sheriff’s race, where conservative Republican incumbent Tom Hodgson has drawn two Democratic challengers, Fall River attorney Nicholas Bernier and Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux. (New Bedford Light)

Can a moderate win the Republican nomination for governor? (WBUR)]\

The Republican National Committee is preparing to change its rules, requiring anyone seeking the GOP presidential nomination to pledge not to participate in debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Businesses are expressing weariness with COVID restrictions with Boston’s new vaccine mandate on restaurant-goers set to take effect on Saturday. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

A school department mandate to keep windows open 4 inches for air circulation to ward off COVID has put a chill on Boston classrooms. (Boston Herald

In the last week, more than 40,000 Massachusetts public school students and 7,300 staff tested positive for COVID. (MassLive)

Lynn needs to spend $900,000 more on its school system to meet a state requirement for net school spending. (Daily Item)

TRANSPORTATION

CSX Corp., as part of the conditions of its purchase of Pan Am Railways, agrees to let Amtrak use its tracks to provide summer service between Pittfield and New York. (Berkshire Eagle)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The state Commission on Clean Heat gets up and running. (State House News Service)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke has been named the new chief justice of the state’s Trial Court, replacing Paula Carey who is retiring this month. (Boston Globe

Newly appointed US Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins said pursuing human trafficking and trafficking in guns and drugs will be among her priorities. (Associated Press)

The Randolph police expand their civil rights unit, which will handle community outreach and investigate hate crimes. (Patriot Ledger)

An immigration detainee at the Plymouth County Detention Center sues the sheriff after he says he was beaten in the facility after reporting sexual harassment, then denied a visa intended for crime victims who work with the police. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

Gannett is cutting Saturday print editions at many of its publications. The Providence Journal and the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester are two exceptions. (Media Nation)

Scientists and doctors call on Spotify to crack down on an anti-vax podcast of Joe Rogan. (Tech Policy Press)